I am aware of PTSD
Sunday 27 June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day. The Veteran’s Administration reports that about 11-20% of Iraq and Afghanistan War vets have or have had PTSD, and many million more citizens have it from trauma, abuse, and other causes. It is a big deal.
I think I spent much of my career in denial of my own issues: it was something my soldiers had, maybe their spouses or children had, but not me. I remember having a mandatory post deployment behavioral interview after returning from Afghanistan, and the specialist asked me if I was or had been suicidal. I made some off-hand joke that “no, I was not suicidal, but could be homicidal if I keep getting that question.” The specialist looked at me in alarm and scribbled furiously into her notebook. It was a horrible joke and showed that I was not taking my own stress and reactions seriously.
As time went on, I retired from the Army and started a stressful executive job. There were times when bad memories crowded my mind, but I had been trained to compartmentalize and forget that which might adversely impact performance, and I doubled down on long distance running, which was my life-long “go to” coping method for any type of stress.
I badly injured my Achilles tendon during my 38th marathon, and the years-long recovery coincided with the framing and initial writing of my memoir of combat in Afghanistan, Marathon War. I could barely run, so that coping mechanism was out, and writing caused me to go back through my journals and remember – and deal with – those things I had tried to forget. There were some late nights writing when my coping mechanism was alcohol, and that was a bad idea, at least for me.
I got through these times with the help of my wife Patty and my adult children. As I confess in Marathon War, I came back from war emotionally dead, and it took years to work through it. Writing my memoir was incredibly painful sometimes, but ultimately cathartic. It helped me.
I still have post-traumatic stress, but it does not and will not rule or ruin my life. I think I can best help my fellow vets and all people with PTSD by confessing a bit as I just have, and continuing the dialogue, as well as supporting organizations that seek to help us all out. And meanwhile I run, hike, ski and mountain bike, usually with Patty and often with our border collie-poodle mix, Otis: all of which helps me immensely deal with that which I can no longer ignore or forget.
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